Cover of In the Ravenous Dark, featuring a young woman wearing a crown standing in of a skull made of illustrated flower

About the Book

Title: In the Ravenous Dark
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Look Close
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Bloody Fantasy
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ+, Mysterious Loner Dude Ghost?, Blue Hair
Anti-Bonus Factor: Bad Men
Relationship Status: There’s Something There

Cover Story: Look Close

Oh, that’s a pretty cover with a pretty young girl. But wait, do those flowers form a … skull? Is she crying … BLOOD? LE GASP.

/end scene

(Theatrics aside, y’all know I love a good skull cover. Something about the girl says 1920s to me, which isn’t plot-accurate at all, but I still dig this on the whole. Wish the title didn’t cover up the chin, though.)

The Deal: 

When she was young, Rovan watched as her father was killed by the city’s bloodmages and their terrifying guardian shades—dead beings who are connected to bloodmages to keep them under control. Since then, she’s been very careful not to reveal her own powers, lest she be taken and forced to have a guardian … or worse.

But then one drunken evening turns into Rovan having to save someone from dying, revealing her true nature in the process. She’s taken to the palace and forced into a life she never wanted for herself. A life she can’t wait to escape.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Rovan is a strong-willed, confident individual who knows what she wants and makes it happen. She chafes at authority, talks back to her elders, and is 100% that cool indie girl you see eating alone in the cafeteria each day, snarling at anyone who bothers her but making eyes at both the head cheerleader and the captain of the football team. She’s the kind of person I’d love to be friends with, but I’m not so sure the feeling would be mutual, you know?

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Rovan’s never been one to shy away from a pretty face, of any gender. She’s more concerned with how a person makes her feel, and I applaud her for being that open. (She might have a ways to go with how she makes others feel, but that’s a different topic.) When she gets to the palace, she’s immediately taken by the beautiful princess Lydea but doesn’t know if she’s trustworthy. And there’s also something about her guardian, the enigmatic and mysterious Ivrilos, that she doesn’t want to poke too hard at. (I mean, the guy is dead and follows her everywhere.)

Rovan doesn’t want to give in to either feeling, purely because she’s more concerned with getting the heck outta Dodge. But she’s also not one to forego a good time if one presents itself …

Talky Talk: Bloody Fantasy

There are a lot of layers to In the Ravenous Dark, and the pile becomes thicker as the story goes on. From magic and family issues to vampires, zombies, and a secretive fae-like culture on the outskirts (possibly waiting to wage war), it’s a little much at times, all the different elements at play. A couple of times I found myself thinking, “oh, of course, this is also in this book.” That said, Strickland weaves it all together surprisingly well—and quickly; In the Ravenous Dark is a standalone novel that actually stands alone. 

The characters are where Strickland truly shines, however; Rovan is so fleshed out it’s hard to believe she’s not based on a real person—even with the ability to do blood magic, natch—and the secondary characters jump right off the page. Their personalities are well-rounded from the very start, which helps set the pace for the very full story.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

In the Ravenous Dark is a very inclusive novel, from a gender and sexual preference perspective. Rovan is pansexual, there are multiple queer relationships, one character is non-binary (and fabulously proud of it), and leanings toward polyamory. On the one hand, it adds to the “maybe too many layers” complaint about the book, but on the other, it’s really great to see such a diverse cast of characters.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude Ghost?

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

Ivrilos is a creeper—at first. He didn’t exactly ask to be stuck to Rovan, but he assures her that “they need each other” and that “all will be explained in time.” This pisses Rovan off to no end, and her passion for him starts as nothing but hatred. But he’s actually somewhat kind, and he’s not hard on the eyes (when he’s not in his spooky see-through smoky ghost form), and maybe there’s actually a way their relationship can be mutually beneficial. 

Did I mention that he’s not at all hard on the eyes?

Bonus Factor: Blue Hair

Coraline (from Coraline) with blue hair wears a yellow raincoat and rolls her eyes

As someone with naturally blue hair,* it was fun to read about Rovan’s blue-tinted tresses (and her father’s gorgeous deep blue mane).

*I wish.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Bad Men

Cher (from Clueless) shoves a guy off of her with disgust and says Ew! Get off of me!

The bad men in this book are dangerous individuals with too much money and too much power. And they’re the kind of men who will do anything to hold onto both, regardless of who they stomp over on the way. (Thankfully—SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT—this isn’t a novel in which said bad men get away with it in the end.)

Relationship Status: There’s Something There

Although you ended up being A Lot, Book, I like that about you. And I love the people you introduced me to in your stories; I’d love to spend more time with them. I might suggest that you tone it down for future first dates, but then again, I don’t want to dim your light. You keep doing you, Book. I’m here for it.

Literary Matchmaking

In the Ravenous Dark

Strickland and Michael Miller’s Shadow Run is more sci-fi than fantasy, but has the same quality cast of characters.

In the Ravenous Dark

Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight Chronicle also includes some (very) gory blood magic.

In the Ravenous Dark

Julia Ember’s Ruinsong is another fantasy novel about a powerful young woman who’s been forced into a life she doesn’t want (and how she escapes).

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Imprint, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. In the Ravenous Dark is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.